[This story is running in the print edition of The Seattle Times Dec. 18, 2013.]
When Microsoft opened its sleek new Cybercrime Center last month, the company said the center was designed to showcase some of its latest technologies and to bring together different units that work on fighting everything from malware to intellectual-property theft.
Now, Microsoft is filing its first case emerging from the work of the Cybercrime Center team, which works out of its new offices on the Redmond campus. On Tuesday, Microsoft filed a civil lawsuit in the U. S. District Court of Western Washington against Sichuan Changhong Electric Co., a Sichuan, China-based manufacturer of household appliances such as refrigerators and TVs.
Microsoft is accusing Changhong of using product keys — a series of numbers and letters that a user enters into a computer in order to activate Microsoft software — that were stolen from organizations that had legitimately purchased licenses for the software.
Those organizations include a U.S. public university, a U.S. public-school district, a U.S.-based engineering company and an Asia-based semiconductor manufacturer, all unidentified in the suit.
Microsoft says it doesn’t know how those product keys were stolen and believes that will be made clear during the discovery process.
Microsoft contends that, since 2011, Changhong’s employees, contractors or other agents have activated numerous copies of Microsoft software products using stolen product-activation keys.
Representatives of Changhong could not immediately be reached for comment.
Microsoft believes it’s the first time any company has used the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to go after those allegedly stealing software-product keys. The law prohibits unauthorized access to a protected computer system such as those used in interstate commerce.
[Continue reading the story here.]